Dealing with casual misogyny and the #notallmen phenomenon
12 July 2016, 16:01
For a Woman On The Internet, run-ins with casual misogyny are a daily occurrence — a bit of slut-shaming here, some victim-blaming over there, a few kitchen jokes on the side. Call it out, and you’ll likely be on the receiving end of #NotallMen.
On Twitter this morning, economist Chris Hart thought it a good idea to post a domestic abuse analogy, saying, “Market reaction to #Brexit is like the over-dependent battered wife who just broken free and now wondering about food, clothing & shelter” (sic).
“Is this the same Chris Hart from Standard Bank South Africa who posted a dodgy racist tweet at the beginning of the year?” I hear you ask. Why yes, the very same! (If you need a reminder, Hart was suspended after tweeting “More than 25 years after apartheid ended, the victims are increasing along with a sense of entitlement and hatred towards minorities.” He resigned from Standard Bank, although he never apologised, saying instead that no racism was intended: “The whole thing was conflated and misunderstood. It was taken completely out of context.”)
And now Hart is under scrutiny again.
In case it’s unclear why the domestic violence analogy is so despicable, let me put it in simple terms: Hart is essentially mocking the “over-dependence” and lack of foresight of a woman who has finally managed to escape her abuser. He is comparing a trauma suffered by real people — in every country, every day — to the financial markets.
This is not to say that the market reaction to Brexit isn’t serious; it absolutely is, and again has very real consequences for real people. The gravity on both sides of the comparison only serves to highlight the flippancy of Hart’s remark.
Generally, it’s not a good idea to use traumatic experiences to make a point about something unrelated, be that abuse or rape (or, something often seen in vegan activism, comparing the treatment of animals to the enslavement of human beings). It is lazy, it is hurtful, and it diminishes trauma. Although Hart wasn’t talking about rape and wasn’t making a joke, he would do well to read Lindy West’s “How to Make a Rape Joke”, which discusses this exact problem.
(Before anyone cries “censorship” or “thought police”, rest assured that your right to free speech is still hale and hearty and enshrined in the Constitution. Fortunately, so is mine, which means that if you make a comment like Hart’s, I have the right to freely call you an asshole.)
I don’t mean to demonise Hart — frankly, he does a fine job all by himself — or to single him out. He’s one of many, although some will say he’s an exception. Now would be the perfect time for the #NotAllMen crowd to step forward and explain to him why he is in the wrong; to show that the “good guys” walk their talk.
Wearing the strident feminist hat gets terribly tiresome. I call out sexism all the damn time, and I want more men to start doing it.
Tell other men when they’re putting all of you in a bad light. Speak.